There are frustrating and embarrassing things said by players, coaches,
management, union reps, MLB officials, umpires, broadcasters, bat boys, even
those 'Golden Glovers' down the right and left field lines at Chase Field all
the time. Most of the time these things are blown off, they're swept under
the rug, and forgotten in a matter of days. Used to be that way about
steroids too. Then Mark McGwire went all weepy, Rafael Palmeiro got
indignant right before testing positive, and Bonds went all 'giant head' and
passed The Babe. Now everything even remotely concerning 'roids, HGH,
'greenies' and whatever else these guys may or may not be taking is serious, and
since MLB hasn't actually cleaned up its act yet (positive steps? Yes.
Positively no performance enhancers? No), it's also National news.
Of course there are whispers. Gonzo's 'big' year was almost as drastic
an increase, and subsequent decrease, as Barry Bonds' big year. The
questions were going to arise, and they did. In bars, in the stands, on
street corners and message boards. They were almost certainly talked about
in the front office, behind closed doors, but what Ken Kendrick did yesterday
was talk about it openly, on the record, to a reporter.
And you thought your manager was a jackass.
Kendrick has, by all accounts, done a pretty decent job of helping to put
together a club that has spent a good portion of this season atop the NL West.
What he has done best is leave the baseball to the baseball people. He has
let GM Josh Byrnes make the right moves, given Vice President of Scouting Mike
Rizzo the carte blanche to sign big time draft picks, let Bob Melvin run the
show on the field. He has smiled and stood next to free agent signees, and
shaken hands with top picks. He has been a strong face in the wake of the
Jason Grimsley accusations, taking a strong stand and stating that the
Diamondbacks would not pay Grimsley the remainder of his contract (FYI:
that's a great PR move, but rest assured the Union will get Grimsley his cash).
I can be honest when I say I thought it would be the 'other' managing
partner, Jeff Moorad, who would have been the problem child. As a former
agent, I thought it would be Moorad horning in on the limelight, spouting off to
generate headlines. I was wrong, but Kendrick was more wrong.
Craig Counsell said it best, "If you're an owner, Luis Gonzalez is your dream
superstar. The way he plays, the way he handles himself in the community, treats
other people. To associate his name with such a sensitive topic is very
It doesn't matter if Kendrick was the one with the needle staring at Gonzo's
backside. This is the face of your organization, and has been for most of
the last decade. This is Mr. Diamondback the way Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub.
Everybody knew the two best players on the '01 World Champions were, Randy and
Curt, but it was Gonzo who was on the cover. Maybe that had something to
do with the fact that Randy and Curt were essentially rentals, that everybody
knew they would move on and snatch the big money when the had the chance (the
same way they took the big money when Arizona gave them the chance), maybe it
had to do with the fact that Gonzo is better looking, maybe it had to do with
the fact that in a state where the Hispanic population is huge, a 'Z' at the end
of the name didn't hurt, but for whatever reason, Luis Gonzalez is the face of
the Diamondbacks, and likely will be for a long time to come, whether he is
playing or not.
If you want to make an example of your best employee, there are ways to do it.
Bringing him to the middle of the office and loudly declaring that you have
'suspicions' about sexual harassment is not one of those ways, and don't fool
yourself, right now in baseball allegations of steroid use are far more damaging
that allegations of sexual harassment.
Kendrick should shut his mouth and go back to writing checks. It's not
like he's shown the greatest baseball acumen anyway. This is the guy who
signed Russ Ortiz to that bloated $34 million deal. He's not a baseball
man, he's a business man, and because of that, on a second look, this starts to
look like a business move.
Gonzo has an option next year that would pay him $10 million. He's been
pretty open about the concept that he doesn't feel like he's done playing good
baseball (50 game homerless streak or no). The Diamondbacks have a gaggle
of talented corner outfielders in the minors. Guys who might very well be
more productive, at a fraction of the cost, of Luis Gonzalez. The best
case scenario is that Gonzo gets hot again, helps the D'Backs to the playoffs,
makes some big plays, gets some clutch hits, and then instead of coming back
next year, takes a cushy spot in the front office of the D'Backs and turns left
field over to Carlos Quentin, Scott Hairston, Chris Young or one of the other
talented outfielders in the minors. Give him a title, 'Special Assistant
to the General Manager" or something, and pay him a chunk of money to be on
camera, reminding D'Backs fans of that bloop single in Game Seven about every 10
That's unlikely to happen now. If I were Gonzo, I would have been even
more forceful in my denial. Whether I did it or not, I'd be screaming from
the rooftops. Clearly he's not on the juice anymore (if he ever was), and
thus he's not going to pull a Palmeiro and test positive after the denial, so
I'd be calling my lawyer and asking questions like, "How much can I win in a
slander trial against Kendrick?"
And I'd go out to the field everyday with a renewed sense of purpose and
focus. I'd go have the best second half my body could possibly let me
have, and I'd take that $10 million dollar option and tell the front office to
stick it where they say I stuck that needle...
...but that's not Gonzo. If he did juice up back in '01, it was a
mistake, and one he clearly realized. He stopped, and he continued to be
among the greatest community leaders in the history of sport. He donates,
both his time and his money, he funds anti-drug programs. I was lucky
enough to be included in one of Luis' 'Kids Going Gonzo for School' functions a
couple of years ago. My wife was a teacher in a school that was
I watched kids, even kids who weren't big baseball fans, learn about making
the right decisions in life the way Gonzo goes at hanging sliders. I
watched kids who had grown up in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Phoenix
learning how to make the right decisions. About drugs, alcohol, about
life. They learn that just because you make a mistake, you don't have to
continue to make it. A well spoken, good looking, incredibly talented
Latino who had made something of himself on and off the diamond. Only a
select few actually got to go down on the field and shake his hand, but in the
top of the fifth inning of that night's game, as Gonzo ran out to left, he
pointed at the various sections where those kids were. Just a point, a
simple gesture, but when he did it, these kids exploded. They were
rewarded for working hard and doing something that would help them in the
Ken Kendrick pointed as well, and I hope D'Back fans explode just as loudly
as those kids. I hope for the D'Backs sake that the talent pool in MLB
wasn't paying too much attention, though we know they were. If Albert
Pujols was a free agent, and were looking at various clubs, could he, with
allegations and rumors already circulating, come to Arizona now? Would he
feel safe that Kendrick wouldn't spout off one day about how he had some
'suspicions'? What about Alex Rodriguez? Manny Ramirez? Jim
Thome? How about Roger Clemens? Would any of them feel at ease with
Kendrick as their boss?
Are steroids okay? Of course not. IF Gonzo was on the juice, was
it okay because it's him? Absolutely not. Was Ken Kendrick wrong on
every level to bring it up the way he did. Yes. If Jason Grimsley
was a distraction, it was an itch you couldn't quite reach. What Ken
Kendrick did was open a sore on the bottom of your foot. No, it probably
won't kill you, but it won't go away any time soon, and you'll never forget